In this post I outline the characteristics of everyday inquiry and explain how everyday inquiry is related to inquiry learning.
Everyday inquiry involves asking questions, and finding and using information in a cyclic process.
An intuitive understanding of inquiry learning is that it has something to do with learning through asking questions. The way we use the term ‘inquire’ (or enquire) in everyday life is generally related to asking questions.
Inquiry is also related to finding information. Finding, noticing and gathering information is universal throughout the animal kingdom:
“The kind of inquiry that comes naturally is found in other mammals as well as human beings. It consists of examining, sniffing, or otherwise gathering information on anything novel that appears in the environment.” (Scardamalia & Bereiter, p. 3)
Once information is found, noticed and gathered it is used to make decisions or solve problems.
The process of asking, finding and using information to make decisions or solve problems can be discrete e.g. What fridge should I buy? or continuous e.g. How should I live my life to be happy and healthy? In the first example, my purposeful information seeking ends with the purchase of the fridge, although I may continue to notice information about fridges.
In the second example, the answer may change according to a range of factors acting upon me. In macro terms, I might know what it takes to be happy and healthy, but in micro terms I may need to be continually reappraising my happiness and healthiness – I may change the food I eat, my fitness regime, my work, the people I choose to associate with, my life goals etc. All of these micro choices involve asking questions and finding, noticing and using information.
In discrete and continuous inquiries, there are cycles within cycles of asking questions and finding, noticing and using information. When researching a new fridge to buy I consulted a range of sources including review websites, I visited white goods showrooms and I asked advice from friends, colleagues and family. Each piece of new information generated new questions, which required a new search, which generated new questions…
And so it is with inquiry learning. The strength of inquiry learning is that it mirrors everyday processes. Indeed, a teacher-librarian I interviewed recently called it ‘an approach to life’ (Lupton manuscript).
Thus, inquiry learning as a pedagogy and curriculum design involves:
1) questioning frameworks
2) information literacy / information seeking processes
3) an action research cycle
In my next post, I will tease out these three elements.
Lupton, M. (manuscript). Teaching inquiry learning. Teacher-librarian’s understandings and practices.
Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2010). A brief history of knowledge building. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 36(1), 1-16.